where i have been

where i have been | the merry gourmet

I’ve been missing from this space for so long now that when I sit down to write, it feels foreign and almost uncomfortable. It feels like I don’t know it any more, this blog that once felt like my best friend. Now, she’s like that friend from college who, as it turns out, I really don’t have much in common with these days, but I know that once, long ago, we had lots of great times together and shared all of our secrets. The conversation is now slow to start and we can’t get past the awkward silences and talking about the weather. I really want to hang out with her again, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to confide in her as openly and trustingly as I used to.

I’ve intended to write so many things over so many of these past two years, but I freaked myself out a bit. I began to think about those of you who may still be reading here (when there is something to read). I know many of you may be strangers, some of you are old friends from food blogging and social media, some of you may be friends or colleagues from my real life (as opposed to this online one), a handful of you are family or friends of the family, and a small number of you (or maybe more?) may be patients or friends of patients. I questioned whether it was good for me to be so honest and open and raw. I began to wonder whether what I share here could hurt me in any way. Or whether it could hurt someone I love.

I have never written anything here that I regret (with the exception of that embarrassingly naive first post). Professionally, when I speak to residents or medical students or other physicians about social media and having an online presence, I teach them to never write or share anything that would make their mothers embarrassed. I have practiced what I teach.

But despite my past comfort with being honest in my sharing here, I scared myself away from writing in my blog over these past couple of years with my fear of letting you in. Sure, I’ve written a handful of things, but I’ve not really let you in since my father died. It was not you that scared me off, though. Your comments and emails have been wonderful and supportive and caring. It was me. It was my own fear of being honest and admitting…what? Not weakness, no. Maybe just fear of admitting that life was harder than I could handle.

Many of you must know of Glennon Doyle Melton, or if you don’t know her name, you probably know her blog, Momastery. After reading a handful of her posts over the past year or two, I began following her page on Facebook. Almost two weeks ago, she shared a link to a video she’d made for a TEDx conference in Traverse City. The video was called Lessons from the Mental Hospital, and I’ve now watched it twice. In it, Glennon speaks about overcoming her addictions. Mostly, though, she talks about learning to feel her feelings rather than numbing them and learning to tell the truth.

Something clicked for me as I watched Glennon pace the stage in her cute, boot-cut jeans and talk honestly into the camera about being truthful. I thought about my blog and how I felt paralyzed when I thought of writing a new post. I understood then that I afraid of being honest, and that in the absence of being able to share with complete honesty, I had lost my desire to write.

I’d like to find a way to be honest here and to share my life again – all of it, the good and the bad. I know that I will be limited, to a degree, because some stories are not mine to tell. But my story is mine to tell, and I would like to tell the truth of it because I think that I am not alone (even though it desperately feels that way most days). I think that someone else – maybe one of you, even – may need to understand that he or she is not alone, either.

I know that there are some people in my family who may read what I write and may become angry. They may even shut me out entirely. I have come to know, though, that there are worse fates, and that I am already shut out. Others may be appalled and offended that I would share so openly about things we just don’t talk about except maybe in private Facebook messages or on occasional phone calls, and certainly not in public with strangers.

I can’t care about offending, though. I must be true to myself, and that means being honest and talking out loud about things that are difficult and writing them down. I’ve been down this darkened path of keeping things in, and it’s not working for me. I don’t feel whole.

My truth is this: I am the sister of a schizophrenic who will not take medications consistently. Increasingly over these past several years, I have accepted that my brother is also an addict, turning to drugs to self-medicate. I am the daughter of a mother who fell so deep into depression when my father became ill that alcohol must have seemed her only way to escape. When my father died, I think alcohol must have seemed even more comforting than ever before. Or maybe it seemed the only choice. (I can only speculate. After all, her story is not mine to tell.) I am the mother of a curious and wonderful son who never fails to keep me on my toes. I am the mother of a beautiful seventh grader who has grown up too fast and is determined to wear makeup and embrace social media before I am ready. I am the mother of these two amazing children, and I must keep them at a distance from their uncle because I am afraid of him and the violence that he has proven he is capable of.

I will not tell their stories, but I would like to be brave enough to tell my own. I will try to be brave enough. I think that if I can be honest here again, painfully honest even when it makes me uncomfortable- makes us all uncomfortable – I can write again. I can be here again.


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37 Responses to “a change in plans”

  1. Courtney — January 30, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

    Absolutely beautiful and well said post. God Bless you and your family. Your father is in my prayers.

  2. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite.com — January 30, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

    MJ this post made me teary. What beautiful words. Your dad is lucky to have a daughter like you and your kids are lucky to have you as their mum. What a wonderful support network you have – I *love* the idea of the friendship line. You will all be in my thoughts tomorrow and I know that all across the world, people are holding hands in a virtual friendship line with you xoxoxoxox

  3. bunkycooks — January 30, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

    I hope all goes well tomorrow. We have been through so much and so many surgeries, so I understand completely how you and your family are feeling right now. Well wishes and prayers will be headed your way as you go through this stressful time.

  4. Jennifer Hess — January 30, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

    And we’ll all be out here, keeping you, your dad, your whole family close in our hearts, sending strength and our best wishes your way. xxoo

  5. Kim at Life as a Foodie — January 30, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

    I am so sorry to read of your father’s health troubles. For all the whining I do about my family it pales in comparison to things of this nature that force us to wake up and re-evaluate not just our plans, but our priorities and what or who matters most.

    Your father and your family will be in my thoughts tomorrow. I wish your father the best for a speedy recovery.

    Sending all of you hugs and prayer from Vegas.

  6. justcooknyc — January 30, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

    so sorry to hear this — i’ll be wishing you and your father the best

  7. amy — January 30, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  8. SMITH BITES — January 30, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

    While I am so very sorry to hear that your dad will have surgery tomorrow, I am very, very glad that you’ll be there with him, that you have your family for support and we’re all here sending our best thoughts and prayers for a successful outcome and a speedy recovery. hugs to you MJ

  9. Liz the Chef — January 30, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

    We are all right behind you – love and hugs across the miles, Liz

  10. Pam @ From Apples To Zucchini — January 30, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

    I know I already “tweeted” you, I want to tell you again that you, your Dad and your whole family are in my prayers right now. I am glad that you were able to get back to your Dad so quickly. Lots of hugs!

  11. Lana — January 30, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

    I just sent my dad back to Serbia after his 2 month visit with us, and your post made me cry. Your daughter’s card is beyond sweet and I know that your father will recuperate fast surrounded by all the love you give him. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  12. Mauna — January 30, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

    I’m in favor of the virtual friendship line. Here’s to a swift and speedy recovery for your father.

  13. SaraOneTribeGourmet — January 30, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

    Dear MJ, my thoughts and prayers are with you & your dad. I have been through a lot with my mom’s breast cancer and dad’s heart bypass….thankfully both are doing fine…I feel blessed.
    Please keep your spirits high and know that our thoughts are behind you and your family. Your dad is in my prayers. xo

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  15. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — January 30, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

    Such a beautiful post… I hope everything goes well tomorrow. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers!

  16. Maureen — January 30, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

    A beautiful message about families. God bless you and your family and he will be in my prayers.

  17. Kate — January 30, 2011 @ 8:07 pm

    MJ, Your post was incredibly emotional and touching. I was getting choked up just reading it. My heart goes out to you, your father and your family as you go through this tough time. ~Kate (@KDBabbles)

  18. Whitney @ Nesting Season — January 30, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

    Well, here I am crying and I only learned of your existence a minute ago, when a tweet from Creative Kitchen caught my attention, and led me here, to this beautiful post. I hope it brings some comfort to know that this shrinking world of ours can so easily pull people in to your little corner, bringing with them new thoughts, and prayers, and light. Sending all of my best to all of you.

  19. Jayne — January 31, 2011 @ 4:34 am

    Wishing your Dad a speedy recovery. I will be thinking of you and your family today. x

  20. Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — January 31, 2011 @ 7:49 am

    A sad but well said post. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
    Thank you for also posting the beautiful note from Madeline! Good luck to you and your family.

  21. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — January 31, 2011 @ 11:49 am

    I’ll be thinking of you and your family today and prayers will be said. For your father’s safe recovery and for your and your mom’s strength to see him through this. Take good care MJ. XOXO

  22. Lynne — January 31, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    Count me added to the friendship line of people linked together keeping your family in our thoughts and prayers.

  23. Lynda — January 31, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

    Best wishes and thoughts for your father and your family. He’s so lucky you can be there.
    Take care – Lynda

  24. Rachel winter — January 31, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

    Mj hugs to you hope today’s surgery is successful. Love you

  25. Liz — January 31, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

    My thoughts are with you. My grandmother had a brain tumor removed a few years ago and she came out of it just fine. I hope it is the same case with your father and that you continue to provide comfort to one another for years to come.

  26. Mac — January 31, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

    MJ, I’ve been away from twitter all day but have certainly had you in my thoughts and prayers. My heart is drawn to you and your father because my Dad, whom I love and adore, is 77 with several health issues. There’s just something so special about all us daughters and dads who are close. I’m so glad you could get home quickly! Your father is very lucky to have you there to hold his hand, and of course be with your mom. God bless!

  27. Macaroni Mama — February 1, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

    I re-read this post tonight. I know baking something or creating a special dish means the world to you and all your food-blogging friends; however, you have meant the world to me throughout this trying time with your father. Everyday I buy “takeout” for your 87 year old grandmother, and tonight I ate something leftover in the fridge…I know not what it was, but it was my supper. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU ARE DOING, MERRY JENNIFER.

  28. Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — February 3, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

    I hope everything is okay with your father and things are getting better!

  29. Melanie Flinn — February 4, 2011 @ 2:55 am

    Oh I am so sorry to hear this. Wishing the very best for your Dad. It is so tough watching your parents suffer an illness.

  30. The yummy Mummy — February 5, 2011 @ 8:23 am

    Thinking about you, your dad, your mom, the whole family. We’ll be here if you need us. Xxoo

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  32. Jaden — February 16, 2011 @ 12:41 pm


    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — February 17th, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

      Thanks so much, Jaden.

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